Great Basin Naturalist


Mima moundfields were investigated at the Lawrence Memorial Grassland Preserve, located on the Columbia Plateau in southern Wasco County, Oregon, and at three locations in the San Luis Valley and Sangre de Cristo Mountains, southern Colorado, to test the alternative hypotheses of mound origins by erosion, frost action, and soil translocation by geomyid pocket gophers. The concentrations of two size classes of small stones, gravel (8–15 mm diameter) and pebbles (15–50 mm diameter), were sampled along mound-to-intermound transects and at different depths within the mounds. Numbers and masses of small stones per unit soil volume increased from intermounds to mounds tops at the Colorado sites and from mound edge to mound top at the Oregon site, where thin intermound soils lay directly on the weathering surface of basalt bedrock. Numbers and masses of small stones in the surface soil of mound tops were greater than or similar to concentrations in deeper layers. Mean masses of individual pebbles were greater in the intermound zone than in mound soils at the Oregon site, but did not differ along mound-intermound gradient at the Oregon site and at one Colorado site, being highest at mound edges or in intermounds. These observations support the hypothesis that mounds are formed by centripetal translocation of soil by geomyid pocket gophers, and are contrary to predictions based on theories assuming erosion or frost action to be the mechanism of mound formation.